The Netherlands, which holds the EU Presidency for the first half of 2016, shares our industry’s belief in the potential of connected and automated driving to deliver more sustainable and efficient mobility. Hence, the Dutch want to put the subject high on the agenda of EU policymakers. To that end, they have made ‘smart mobility’ the central theme of the Informal Transport Council that will bring all 28 European transport ministers together in mid-April.
European car manufacturers will contribute to this gathering by making a fleet of connected and automated vehicles available to take the ministers to their meeting location in Amsterdam. These cutting-edge cars will showcase various levels of automation (from automated lane changing and hands-off driving in traffic jams to self-parking vehicles) and the latest connectivity technology. Moreover, in the run up to this meeting on 14 April, truck makers have joined forces with the Dutch EU Presidency for the European Truck Platooning Challenge, the world’s first cross-border initiative with smart trucks.
Connectivity and automation hold a lot of promise to make road transport safer, cleaner and more efficient in the next few decades. Fuel consumption – and with that CO2 emissions – will be reduced, traffic will become even safer and roads will be used more effectively, thereby reducing congestion. Connected and automated driving presents an opportunity to completely reinvent the driving experience. This will not only strengthen the technical leadership and global competitiveness of the European automobile industry, but it will also bring considerable economic gains for society at large. KPMG recently estimated that automated cars could add up to €70 billion per year to the UK economy by 2030, equivalent to a 1% increase in GDP. At the same time, these disruptive developments will bring great change to our industry. We will need to establish new alliances with non-automotive partners in the telecom and IT sectors, and to continue developing new business models to offer innovative mobility solutions.
Even though this revolution is shaping our industry at a rapid pace, there are still many obstacles on the road ahead. Think, for example, of issues with regard to liability, data protection and privacy, upgrading infrastructure, and cyber security. From an infrastructure point, Europe first needs to strengthen its communications networks. Concretely, we need to improve coverage and reliability to guarantee that mobile networks can facilitate connected and automated driving, and we also need the right infrastructure to process data for millions of cars. In parallel, manufacturers are committed to providing their customers with a high level of personal data protection and security. This means that we need to define a common framework for regulating third-party access to vehicle data; guaranteeing the safety, security and integrity of a vehicle; protecting personal data; and establishing clear legal liability. The automotive industry is already working together with other sectors to overcome such hurdles. One example is the ‘EU industry dialogue on automated and connected driving’ between the European automotive and telecom industries, which was launched last year by Commissioner Oettinger.
As these issues cannot be addressed by industry alone, there is also clear need for supportive public policies. At the EU level, we need a coherent and consistent policy framework that enables and accelerates the deployment of connectivity technology and vehicles with highly automated driving functions. In this respect, European cooperation has an important role to play in preventing countries from creating a patchwork of rules and regulations, which could hinder investments in automated and connected vehicles. Looking ahead, it is important that relevant legislation is harmonised throughout Europe and that countries recognise each other’s procedures and requirements – this is crucial for a smooth market introduction. ACEA therefore welcomes the Dutch EU Presidency’s efforts to promote cooperation between automobile manufacturers, national governments and the European institutions.
However, contrary to what we all might hope, overcoming these barriers will be a gradual process spanning the next decades. Differences in legislation between EU member states still exist, and both traffic and type-approval rules need to be updated. In addition, global standards should be introduced and communications infrastructure has to be upgraded. All this together means that it will take some years before connected and automated vehicles will populate Europe’s roads. What we will see is a progressive introduction of technologies, with operational tests in the field. Indeed, the testing phase is the most important next step. Fortunately, more and more governments are offering industry the opportunity to test their latest vehicles and technologies, thereby also supporting efforts to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance.
That’s why the European Truck Platooning Challenge is so important. The Challenge perfectly illustrates the importance of the testing phase in fostering much-needed pan-European cooperation between all relevant stakeholders. Six brands of semi-automated trucks, driving in platoons, will hit public roads in April. These truck platoons consist of two or three trucks which are linked in convoy. Vehicles closely follow each other at a set, close distance by using connectivity technology and automated driving support systems. During the Challenge, each manufacturer will drive its own platoon, crossing borders from various European cities, to reach their final destination of the Port of Rotterdam on 6 April. The overall objective of the European Truck Platooning Challenge is to accelerate the introduction of truck platoons. It is more than just a technical project: it is about getting together with all relevant partners to learn how to facilitate cross-border connected and automated driving, and to encourage compatibility on legal and technical issues. ACEA and its commercial vehicle members – DAF Trucks, Daimler Trucks, Iveco, MAN Truck & Bus, Scania and Volvo Group – are therefore actively supporting and participating in the European Truck Platooning Challenge. I am for sure looking forward to seeing the first cross-border initiative live in Rotterdam on 6 April!
Secretary General of ACEA